United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
TOMMIE L. HILL, JR. Petitioner,
TAMMY FORD, Respondent.
ORDER DIRECTING CLERK TO MODIFY RESPONDENT, DENYING
§ 2254 PETITION, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
DANIEL BREEN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tommie L. Hill, Jr., pleaded guilty to evading arrest and
reckless endangerment and was tried and convicted of two
counts of aggravated assault by a jury in the Madison County
Circuit Court in Jackson, Tennessee. Proceeding pro
se, Hill seeks federal habeas corpus relief challenging
his aggravated assault convictions pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. For the reasons discussed below, the § 2254
petition is DENIED.
statutory authority for federal courts to issue habeas corpus
relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”).
the AEDPA, habeas relief is available only if the prisoner is
“in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(a). A § 2254 claim challenging the petitioner's
custody or sentence on state-law grounds thus fails to state
a federal habeas claim. Moreland v. Bradshaw, 699
F.3d 908, 926 (6th Cir. 2012) (writ of habeas corpus may not
issue “on the basis of a perceived error of state
law”) (citing Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37,
availability of federal habeas relief is further restricted
where the petitioner's claim was “adjudicated on
the merits” in the state courts. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d). In that circumstance, federal habeas relief
“may not be granted” unless:
the earlier state court's decision “was contrary
to” federal law then clearly established in the
holdings of [the Supreme] Court, [28 U.S.C.] §
2254(d)(1); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412
(2000); or . . . “involved an unreasonable application
of” such law, § 2254(d)(1); or . . . “was
based on an unreasonable determination of the facts” in
light of the record before the state court, §
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011).
court's decision is “contrary” to federal law
when it “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that
reached” by the Supreme Court on a question of law or
“decides a case differently than” the Supreme
Court has “on a set of materially indistinguishable
facts.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. An
“unreasonable application” of federal law occurs
when the state court “identifies the correct governing
legal principle from” the Supreme Court's decisions
“but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts
of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 413.
is little case law addressing the “unreasonable
determination of the facts” standard of §
2254(d)(2). The Supreme Court has explained, however, that a
state court's factual determination is not
“unreasonable” merely because the federal habeas
court would have reached a different conclusion. See Wood
v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). Although the Sixth
Circuit has described the standard as “demanding but
not insatiable, ” it construes the standard in tandem
with § 2254(e)(1) to require a presumption that the
state court's factual determination is correct in the
absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
Ayers v. Hudson, 623 F.3d 301, 308 (6th Cir. 2010)
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
Exhaustion and Procedural Default
a federal court will review the merits of a claim brought
under § 2254, the petitioner must have “exhausted
the remedies available in the courts of the State.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). The exhaustion provision is
“designed to give the state courts a full and fair
opportunity to resolve federal constitutional claims before
those claims are presented to the federal courts.”
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845
light of this purpose, the Supreme Court has interpreted the
exhaustion provision as requiring not mere
“technical” exhaustion, Coleman v.
Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 732 (1991), but
“proper” exhaustion. Boerckel, 526
U.S. at 848. A claim is technically exhausted when state
remedies are no longer available to the petitioner.
Coleman, 501 U.S. at 732 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
2254(b)). Technical exhaustion therefore encompasses not only
situations where the petitioner fully presented his claim to
the state courts, but also instances where the prisoner did
not present his claim to the state courts at all or failed to
present it to the highest available court, and the time for
doing so has expired. Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 848;
Wood v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 92-93 (2006). If federal
habeas courts were generally allowed to review such claims,
the exhaustion provision's purpose of giving the state
courts the first opportunity to resolve federal
constitutional issues would be “utterly
defeated.” Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446,
453 (2000). “To avoid this result, and thus protect the
integrity of the federal exhaustion rule, ” a claim
must be “properly” exhausted, meaning it must be
“fairly presented” through “one complete
round of the State's established appellate review
process.” Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 845, 848.
exhaustion requirement works in tandem with the
procedural-default rule, which generally bars federal habeas
review of claims that were procedurally defaulted in the
state courts. Id. at 848. Broadly speaking,
procedural default happens in two ways. A petitioner
procedurally defaults his claim where he fails to properly
exhaust available remedies (that is, fails to “fairly
present” the claim through “one complete
round” of the state's appellate review process),
and he can no longer exhaust because a state procedural rule
or set of rules has closed-off any “remaining state
court avenue” for review of the claim on the merits.
Harris v. Booker, 251 F. App'x 319, 322 (6th
Cir. 2007). See also Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 846, 848.
Procedural default also occurs where the state court
“actually . . . relie[s] on [a state] procedural bar as
an independent basis for its disposition of the case.”
Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320, 327 (1985).
To cause a procedural default, the state court's ruling
must “rest on a state law ground that is independent
of the federal question and adequate to support the
judgment.” Coleman, 501 U.S. at 729.
only when the petitioner shows “cause for the default
and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of
federal law, ” or demonstrates that “the
court's failure to consider the claim will result in a
fundamental miscarriage of justice, ” that a federal
court will review the merits of a claim that was procedurally
defaulted. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 748-50 (citing
Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496 (1986)). A
fundamental miscarriage of justice is met “where a
prisoner asserts a claim of actual innocence based upon new
reliable evidence.” Bechtol v. Prelesnik, 568
F. App'x 441, 448 (6th Cir. 2014).
Hill's Criminal Proceedings and Direct Appeal
opinion affirming the denial of post-conviction relief, the
Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (“TCCA”)
summarized the criminal proceedings and direct appeal in
[T]he petitioner was indicted by the Madison County Grand
Jury for reckless endangerment, evading arrest, and two
counts of aggravated assault based on his having fled in a
vehicle from the police, reaching speeds of 85 to 100 miles
per hour on a Jackson city street, and having then driven his
vehicle toward two police officers, one of whom apparently
shot the petitioner to avoid being struck by the vehicle. A
hospital security camera apparently captured the
petitioner's high-speed flight down a city street, but
not the actions that formed the basis for the aggravated
assault counts of the indictment. The petitioner subsequently
pled guilty to the evading arrest and reckless endangerment
counts and was tried and convicted by a jury of the
aggravated assault counts. He was represented by counsel at
his arraignment but elected to proceed pro se at
trial, with the trial court assigning his original trial
counsel to act as his elbow counsel at trial and sentencing.
He filed his direct appeal of the convictions pro
se, and on May 25, 2011, this court entered an order
dismissing the appeal based on the petitioner's failure
to file an appellate brief in the case.
Hill v. State, No. W2012-01472-CCA-R3PC, 2013 WL
1681212, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 17, 2013), perm.
app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 10, 2013).
inmate filed a post-conviction petition seeking relief from
his convictions, which was denied after an evidentiary
hearing. (ECF No. 9-1.) The TCCA affirmed the lower
court's decision and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied
permission to appeal. See Hill, 2013 WL 1681212, at
Hill's § 2254 Petition Petitioner raises
five grounds for habeas relief:
. Claim 1: He received ineffective
assistance of trial counsel.
. Claim 2: The State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence
in violation of Brady v. Maryland,373 ...